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Wednesday, 10 August 2005

Ashes

Now is the burning time. Roadside undergrowth ablaze, we drive down the dusty track through a tunnel of soaring heat and ash. My cheeks redden and it feels as though our very vehicle is on fire. Small rodents are forced out by the crackle and pop to be clubbed to death. Later they will hang on sticks, on sale, for eating.

At night-time the sky is an eerie orange, and the galloping fingers of flame sound strangely like rain. Fire-Water. Bricks too burn. Hand-moulded from clay, and burnt to harden. Charcoal also. Smoking mounds turning once-trees into now-coal.

Patches of black soot, brush already eliminated, reveal thousands of small grey termite mounds, poking up like so many endless tombstones. Skeletal trees fork upwards into a cloudless sky. We pass beneath the power lines, swooping low like tangled wool; a sorcery so close yet not ours, a miracle bypassing the regular wo/man on its way to the President's farm.

Now is also the time of the wind, whipping sand into whirling dervishes, spinning-tops to leave grit in eyes, nose, grinding against teeth. Reed mats for purchase flap wildly on poles. Everyone is watching, waiting, for the rains. It is many months off, and already streams are reduced to puddles of mud. Where once were local laundromats now are water-lily ghosts.

Time is marked by no clock, but by produce. On the roadside stalls women in woolly hats tout the last of the squashes, the sweet potatoes. The fat watermelons are already past their best. Avocados are gone; green peppers linger.

I look at this life around me as we make our way into town. The Husband, meanwhile, is busily selecting his Fantasy Football team.